True story: I once whisked my way through 23 egg whites in one day to conquer these delicate French cookies called macarons. And then I took a break from it not only because of exhaustion and hair pulling, but due to sugar high as well. I couldn't eat them anymore. However, in all of my macaron experimentations and permutations, I've never considered preparing them nut-free. When Shulie asked me if I was interested in contributing a nut-, kiwi-, and artificial food coloring-free version, I asked out loud, "Now why didn't I think of that before?" The answer was a quick Yes and the wheels started turning. I love a good challenge, especially one that would allow other people to enjoy food that they normally couldn't.
I must admit, although I cook and bake a lot and love bringing food to people's homes whenever I get invited, it had never come up that I needed to avoid certain ingredients due to allergies--until 3 weeks ago, that is. I attended a Luau potluck party and lovingly prepared a Hawaiian-themed coconut macadamia shortbread. Everybody enjoyed it and went for thirds (or even more, but I'm not one to eat and tell). The next morning I missed two calls and received two messages from my friend, the host of the party, asking if there were almonds in the shortbread. I quickly replied No, and gave her a list of all the ingredients. It turned out that one of her friends is allergic to almonds and was rushed to the hospital the next day because she was hiving pretty badly. I was besides myself at that point in our conversation, wishing I had known someone had a nut allergy. And I saw her eat one after another serving of the shortbread! My friend said the guest was known to only to have reactions to almonds, and I said that people who have one nut allergy tend to develop more. Thankfully she was released from hospital after a few hours and was okay. I don't think they've figured out what caused her hives, but because of that, my instinct is to now ask about food preferences and allergies. A very scary lesson learned. After that incident, participating in Shulie's nut-free macaron series seemed even more fitting.
I continued with the coconut theme and used my go-to basic macaron recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook (introduced to me by the lovely Deeba) to try my hand again at coconut flour. I included it in my shortbread and noticed that it really sucked the living moisture out of the cookie. I wasn't prepared to witness the flour's insane affinity for it when it's in direct contact with whipped egg whites. The macaron magma that I had hoped to see after folding became macaron dough. Yes, it was completely unsalvageable and I stored it to use as a crust later. After regrouping, I settled with fine dessicated coconut, as a sort of sarcastic play on the macaron vs macaroon confusion. The beau suggested a lime filling. To add a hint of color to the filling, he also came up with the brilliant idea of using spinach to naturally impart some green into the cream. I took both suggestions and came up with a ganache that is super smooth, addictive and quite attractive in its pale shade of green. Sometimes it pays to listen to the men in our lives...aha. :)
The resulting light and airy macaron shells had a nice crunch and texture because of the desiccated coconut, but not so much that you would mistake it for macaroons. When you bite into the sandwiches, the hint of lime cuts the sweetness of the shells, and each bite invites another. Sweet, then hint of lime, and repeat. Here's another macaron recipe I could stand by, and have been devouring for the past few days.
I hope you'll enjoy these macarons as much as I've had the pleasure of creating them. And thank you to Shulie for having me here, it's truly been a fun and meaningful learning experience for me.
Coconut Macaron with Lime and White Chocolate Ganache
Makes about 20 macaron sandwiches (40 macaron shells)
For the shells:
110 grams confectioner's (icing) sugar
60 grams fine unsweetened desiccated coconut
60 grams aged* egg whites (~ 2 eggs) at room temperature (*aged for 2 days in the fridge or popped in the microwave for 10 seconds)
40 grams superfine (caster) sugar
10 grams medium unsweetened desiccated coconut
For the filling:
4.5 oz heavy cream (use only 4 oz if not using the optional spinach leaves)
5 oz white chocolate chunks (I used Callebaut)
juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1 lime
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves (~40 leaves) (Optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F with the rack in the lower middle position. Toast the medium unsweetened desiccated coconut in a small metal pan for 2-3 minutes, until it begins to turn golden brown. Shake and transfer to a small glass dish to cool.
Line baking sheet/s with parchment paper. For easier and more uniform shell piping, you can use this template as a guide underneath the parchment paper (be sure to remove it before baking).
1. In a medium mixing bowl (or stand mixer bowl), mix the egg whites with a whisk attachment until thick and frothy, with lots of tiny bubbles.
2. Slowly add the superfine sugar while whisking, and mix until the meringue becomes smooth and glossy, and forms stiff peaks.
3. Pulse confectioner's sugar and fine unsweetened desiccated coconut in a food processor. Sift into a large bowl. Include the bits and pieces of desiccated coconut, even if they are not that fine. They are light enough that they would not weigh down the macaron.
4. Add 1/4 of the meringue into the bowl of sifted dry ingredients and fold with a spatula until incorporated. Continue to add each quarter portion after fully mixing. It will be very thick and dry with the first half of the meringue (don't give up!), but will slowly turn more liquid by the 3rd. The resulting batter will be thick and have magma flow-like consistency .
5. Spoon into a piping bag with a 1/2" plain circular tip (Ateco #806). You might want to clip the end before the tip to prevent leaking while your filling your bag. Alternative: Use a resealable bag and just snip one corner for the "tip".
6. Pipe mixture into 1 1/2" diameter discs, about an inch apart. Top with some toasted coconut. Let it sit out to dry for 15 minutes. It's ready for baking once you can lightly touch the tops where the skin forms and it doesn't stick to your finger.
7. Pre-heat oven to 300°F with the rack at the lower middle position.
8. Bake piped meringue disks for 10-13 minutes. The shells are done when their tops have domed, the bottoms have froth-like "feet" around it and can be easily peeled off the parchment paper without the meringue splitting between top and bottom.
9. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool completely.
1. Roll spinach leaves and slice thinly. Place in a double layer of cheese cloth bag tied at the ends to form a pouch or in several fillable tea bags/filters.
2. Boil together the heavy cream, spinach leaf bags, lime juice and zest under medium-high heat, squeezing the spinach bag/s as you stir. Heat about 5-8 minutes, until cream reduces and you get a nice green avocado color. Squeeze the spinach bag before discarding. Strain cream into a small bowl, preferably using a fine sieve to get rid of any remaining spinach bits and lime zest.
3. In a microwave safe bowl, place the white chocolate chunks and heat in the microwave in 20-second increments until fully melted, stirring in between.
4. Slowly pour the hot cream into the bowl of white chocolate and stir. The green color will intensify as the two become incorporated. Mix until smooth and free of lumps.
5. Cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, until the ganache becomes thick enough for spreading. (You can also place it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.)
Place about about half a teaspoon of ganache at the center of the bottom of a shell and top with another macaron shell and gently squeeze together.
Store unfilled macaron shells in an airtight container in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge overnight for filling the next day. Macaron shells will keep well in the freezer for about a month. The ganache will stay in the fridge for a week and a half, longer if frozen.